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Oil history exhibit to receive upgrade

The Oklahoma History Center is expanding its oil and natural gas exhibits.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: September 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: September 5, 2013

“The quality of life and education in Oklahoma would not be the same without the oil and gas industry,” Blackburn said.

The exhibit also will include stories about six people representing different jobs in the industry.

“I'm hoping that visitors will connect the dots, that they will see just drilling a well is not the oil and gas industry,” Blackburn said. “That's an important part, but you cannot understand Oklahoma history without understanding the impact of oil and gas in Oklahoma.”

The new oil and natural gas exhibit will replace the existing display that has been at the museum since 2005.

“The first exhibit had too much of an emphasis on what you would see in a science museum,” Blackburn said. “It was based more on the geology and finding oil and gas instead of the history of oil and gas in Oklahoma.”

The most substantial reason for the change is that Blackburn and his team at the historical center have spent much of the past several years building the collection that will now be displayed.

The biggest gain for the collection came from one of the city's biggest losses in recent years.

When Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. bought Kerr-McGee Corp., Blackburn immediately called Kerr-McGee CEO Luke Corbett and asked for the company's archives.

He called nearly every day for three months before he received an answer.

“Finally one day I got a call from Luke,” Blackburn said. “He said the guys in Houston would let us have the collection if we could get it out in three days. We rented a truck and headed over.”

Blackburn and his team left Kerr-McGee Tower with 800,000 pictures, 700 reels of film and boxes of Dean McGee's personal files.

Blackburn said he hopes the exhibit will connect the industry to a typical Oklahoman's daily life.

“This is not just something to think about when the issue of gross production taxes comes up,” he said. “It's more important than just when we debate about fracking or when the price of gas goes up 40 cents.

“For us to make good decisions about our future, we have to understand our past. We have to understand the history of oil and gas in Oklahoma to understand Oklahoma going forward.”

by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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